Vanuatu parliament engulfed by money claims
A bribery scandal engulfing Vanuatu's parliament has brought the country's problems with political instability to a head.
A scandal engulfing Vanuatu's parliament has brought the country's problems with political instability to a head.
Parliament this week suspended 16 opposition MPs for allegedly contravening the Leadership Code by accepting money from the opposition leader Moana Carcasses.
The opposition leader says his deposits of as much as 10,000 US dollars into bank accounts of various MPs were intended as loans.
Johnny Blades has more:
One of the suspended opposition MPs says government MPs have also used what he calls a development fund set up by Moana Carcasses' Green Confederation.
Kalfau Moli says using the fund shouldn't be seen as bribery as he had supported an ongoing no-confidence motion in the government well before applying for the money.
Mr Moli also says key members of the government borrowed money from Carcasses before.
KALFAU MOLI: A lot of people have borrowed money from that fund, even Vanua'aku Pati members of parliament. That is to assist their constituency. JB: So is Moana like a bank? KALFAU MOLI: Moana is not like a bank They (the Greens) have a facility that can assist MPs, therefore several of us have opted to use that fund.
Since being ousted as Prime Minister in May, Moana Carcasses has lobbied continuously for support to push through a vote of no-confidence against his successor. So far the Natuman coalition has held firm. But more than ever, Vanuatu's parliamentary politics are dominated by the constant threat of such motions, which have provided for ten changes of Prime Minister in the last six and a half years. The latest transferrals represent a new brazen level of lobbying. Vanuatu's Internal Affairs Minister Charlot Salwai says Moana Carcasses is not operating a bank.
CHARLOT SALWAI: He is trying to hide behind a loan scheme but in reality when you see him approach as he did government backbenchers and even ministers, he is offering money in return to have their support, so that they can pay him allegiance to become the next Prime Minister.
Transparency International Vanuatu's Dr Willy Tokon says the transferral of money between the country's MPs around moves to change government is not uncommon.
WILLY TOKON: But it's always been very hard to prove, so we've never brought anyone to task. But this time it seems like nobody is denying the fact that money transactions took place, they're just trying to justify it and explain it. But whether people like it or not, a bribery is a bribery.
Police this month began investigating the payments at the encouragement of Joe Natuman, who moved the motion to suspend the MPs. Following the suspension, Charlot Salwai tabled a bill to amend the Immigration Act to restrict involvement by foreigners in domestic politics. In September the government deported an Australian lawyer linked to Moana Carcasses. Mr Salwai says Mr Carcasses' so-called loan fund for MPs is suspicious.
CHARLOT SALWAI: We know very well how much members of parliament are getting monthly, in terms of member allowances, and we need to know where Mr Moana gets that huge amount of money to lend to the members of parliament.
Meanwhile, Moana Carcasses has filed a constitutional case to challenge the suspensions, saying the allegations have not been proven.
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